Have you found any good writing tools?

I’ve often found that the ideas for game design can be very straightforward, but writing them down in an expressive way so that someone you don’t know can pick them up could do with help.

For instance, I often write sentences which are much too long :slight_smile:

One of the tools that I’ve recently come across which helps me think better about the way of writing is the online tool ‘Hemingway’


Paste some of your writing in there and it will highlight adverbs, use of passive voice, overly complex sentences and other things. It has been an eye-opener for me, and I commend it to you for a try out.

Now I stumbled across that, but it made me wonder - what writing tools have you found that help you make the process of writing (or editing) better?



It is not strictly a writing tool but after years of reading books about creativity the best thing I have found to give you a framework to finish a creative project is a book called Growing Gills by Jessica Abel. I treated it like a course and I did each chapter as a module. It really does help you to look at your weekly schedule, look at your energy levels, look at your honest priorities and then set up a process based on that for finishing creative work.


Is this the one?

I’m always up for getting techniques to improve my process, and I love to hear of recommendations.

This year I’ve revolutionised my ability to get some stuff done through a hack of ‘bullet journals’. I discovered them over Christmas and saw all kinds of beautiful, creative stuff that was being done (far beyond my capability) and then came across one thing that made me think “Wow, I could totally use that to be more intentional about my ‘free’ time each week”. It’s been really helpful over the last 11 weeks to make sure I spend some time on each of seven areas which are important to me each week. Less time frittered away now!



Yes that is it!

I love bullet journalling but I’m always looking for new hacks - can you tell me more detail about your system?


I like bullet journals, but not the pretty, decorated, scrapbook-like kind I see pictures of everywhere. That would just interfere with my use of them. Mine are just lists, and a weekly planner that is… also lists, but in columns and boxes.
But I have come up with one (I think) clever hack. I write all task lists in pencil. Then I pick 3-5 things I need to work on first and trace over the pencil with a pen or marker. Once those are done (or as done as they’re going to get this week), I put little X’s in front of them and pick a few more to ink over. My rule is, once they’re in ink, I have to at least work on them. Until then, any of them can be erased without guilt.


As an English teacher, I absolutely approve. The advice I give my students most often is ‘don’t let words get in the way of meaning.’

Not a tool, per se, but a good way to edit/proofread your writing is to change the font type, size, color, etc. It tricks your brain into reading it as if it hasn’t seen it before and gives you a more objective view of it.


This is going to be a bit of an unusual suggestion but it’s working for me: I’ve been using are.na for writing and researching rpgs.

Are.na is basically a bookmarking service, created for research and presented in a very visual way. You can create channels (think of it as a folder), and into channels you can paste links, upload images and just add blocks of text. Each one of the elements in the channel is also kind of an index card and you can rearrange them around in an order.

I’m finding it very effective for the way I write (or at least conceptualize) games: I have a lot of small ideas that need to work together. I create text blocks with these ideas and organize them around to give the game structure. It may not work in the long run, but it seems like an effective tool for outlining and exploring different things.

(While not at all done: this is the channel I’m using for working on a game tentatively called Dashpunk. It shows pretty well what kind of output you could get from Are.na)


I do professional developmental editing and copy editing, and I can’t tell you how many hours PerfectIt has saved for me. I recommend it for anyone who wants to publish their writing (especially self-publishers). Here are some of the things it catches:

  • Inconsistently spelled, hyphenated, and capitalized words and phrases
  • Inconsistently capitalized headings (headline style vs sentence style)
  • Missing start or ending quotation marks, parentheses, brackets, etc.
  • Missing definitions for abbreviation (or instances where the abbreviation should be used instead of the full term)
  • Embarrassing typos (especially curse words)

Grammarly is… OK. It’s better than nothing, but it can also introduce incorrect commas into your work if you don’t know the rules.


A lot of people love Scrivener, which I have never used, but I’ve taken advantage of other notebook-based approaches to writing (such as Quiver, which is sold as a tool for programmers but is useful for any kind of writing). I love being able to make outlines and having separate documents for different aspects of whatever I’m writing (be it ideas, characters, rules…), but have it all at the same place so I don’t need to juggle with multiple files. There are some free alternatives to Scrivener such as Bibisco (focused on novel writing) and Manuskript.


The main thing for me was how I used my ‘discretionary’ time, and I worked out that I’d got about 30 hours each week which I was using for watching television, playing computer games and stuff (and squeezing around that stuff I wanted to do). I’d heard somebody say “as the weeks go, so the months go. As the months go, so the year goes” and the context was about using time more intentionally.

So I had a think, and decided that there were 7 areas which I’d like to try to spend four hours on each, each week. I chose Spirtuality, Exercise, Creative, Reading, Chores, Professional and Relationships. I can fill in half-hour blocks with my coloured pencils, and as the week goes on I can see where I’ve not been spending much time in a week, and grab a bit more time reading (or doing chores!).

I included on the same page a little bit for recording things to be grateful for, to give me something to look back on; a ‘fruit and veg’ tracker because I want to get better with my diet and a ‘sleep’ tracker because I know I’m bad there, and want to find out how bad!

The other big bit is ‘accomplishments’. I’ve never found to-do lists great, because they sit there accusing me, and don’t help with my procrastination. But elsewhere in my journal I’ve got lists of objectives (household, website, game development etc). Each Sunday afternoon when I get ready and draw up a page for the coming week, I pick three or four things that I’d like to accomplish that week. Mostly three things. Then I tick them off when I do them. If I accomplish extra things in the week I write them in and take credit for them :slight_smile:

I’ll attach a photo of the first two weeks in March. I find the small amount of pleasure I get from a little bit of colouring encourages me to keep it all up - and it is proving genuinely useful for me.


Whoa, this is amazing! Puts my own bullet journal to shame, lol. I love geeky tracking of stuff (I track my sleep and exercise in a similar way, as well as my mood) and this just takes it to the next level :slight_smile: I’ll definitely copy some of this, but probably in a less aesthetically-pleasing way.


I can recommend Scrivener for writers with complex projects–I’ve been using it for NaNoWriMo since at least 2013. The snapshot feature allows you to keep multiple versions of a draft for a scene on hand without having to deal with organizing dozens of files on your computer, and outliners will appreciate being able to convert their outline to folders for organizing the story. It’s worth the learning curve if you feel like writing a manuscript in a single Word file is unwieldy, but I still prefer Word’s formatting tools (esp. paragraph and character styles) when it comes to prepping a manuscript to go into layout.


Along the same lines, yWriter and Cherrytree are both good for keeping a lot of notes organized in a single file.


Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark, is full of good advice about how to put words in the right order.

So is ‘On Writing’ by Steven King.


I love Scrivener for outlining and for organizing vast amounts of material into one file rather than having tons of folders and files on a hard drive. The corkboard function is awesome for moving around virtual 3x5 cards. The built-in word processor is great too, as is its ability to export materials into various ebook formats and PDF, Word, etc. There’s more functionality built into the tool than almost anyone would ever need.

Scrivener and my Alphasmart Neo are my top two writing tools next to my brain and hands.


The only way I can keep motivated enough to write consistently is to see a lot of things I did not consider writing part of the writing process - not only the hours beating text.

I usually write in “phases”.

  • Conceptualizing: the original outline, theme, tone and cast of a story.
  • Research: Actual research into topics pertaining to the story, but also learning a new skill - any skill - or just reading/playing in general
  • “Writing”: When I actually sit down and try to type as much text as possible.
  • Breather: The period where I am not touching a project, letting it “breath” by distancing myself from it. This makes it easier to do the next two steps.
  • Proof-reading and copyedit: Give it a light pass, mechanical and grammatical focused, followed by a more in-depth language-dependent revision.
  • Redraft: When I take the notes and make a new draft. Then it goes back to
  • I can’t even look at it anymore: The moment when the anxiety of going through the cycle of the previous two steps is too much and I release the text into the world amid my own screams.

This method does not work very well - at least for me - for design work, but that may be a question of attention disorder and/or motivation. It does work for most of other fictional and non-fictional writing; having multiple projects in different stages, it is hard the day I am not motivated to work on some element of it.

Scrivener is very helpful with this, since it allows me to organize multiple drafts, notes and research material. Still, my most helpful tool is piles of index cards with punchy descriptions of scenes I want to have later.

NaNoWriMo + any good archiving tool is a powerful resources. I have been using all the Novembers since 2016 as massive conceptualizing, stream of thought conceptualizing/drafting phases for very productive purposes. I have material there for ten years of writing.

P.S. @lindevi, can you easily customize/switch style guides for PerfectIt? Keeping track of which style for either side of the ocean and for which journal is a major copyediting hurdle for me.


I used to incorporate many tools like mindmapping apps etc. Now my writing process consists of pen+paper+clipboard and flat text or markdown files on the computer with a simple editor.

Most important tool for me has been various online thesauri. Also, dictionaries.
I never write with spellcheckers and made a habit of looking up words that seem unclear.

This. If you plan to do any serious writing/copyediting, getting a thick, proper dictionary is a must have.

I definitely love Scrivener for organizing thoughts.

Another tool I really like is Typora, which just does no-nonsense markdown editing/preview and exports to PDF. I use it when I want to focus, because it doesn’t offer much in the way of distractions.


Another one for Typora for keeping notes on the computer—especially for non Mac OS users. Nice and simple. chef’s kiss